What VoCoVo pedometer tests reveal about wasted man hours in UK retail

Article by Olivia Robinson | 28th November 2019

Retailers today are facing greater challenges than ever before.

As customer expectations rise, so the market is squeezed by demands for greater efficiency.

Some large chains are understandably feeling the pressure. It can be challenging to meet increasingly high customer expectations, especially across large retail networks. Luckily, it’s not all bad news.

We’ve worked out how to make some astonishing efficiency savings and want to share the hard facts with you. With a little ingenuity, retailers needn’t despair. In fact, it might be time to celebrate how staff’s jobs could improve for the better.


Our latest research using pedometer tests shows average savings of 185km in steps per store, per annum. This equates to around £3,700 in efficiency savings, 389 man hours and a 7.2% reduction in travel time.

VoCoVo conducts pedometer tests with every partner store to demonstrate the massive value added by voice technology. Two weeks before we install new systems, we measure colleagues’ average steps. We then repeat this two weeks after the install is complete. This enables us to measure the precise saving in time travelled, looking across job roles to see whether customer assistants and managers experience different savings.

By trialling our system, we can see the real difference in kilometers travelled. This can then be attributed to a monetary saving. This time saved could be spent instead back in store in front of customers, instead of wasted in search of support.

In some stores, the saving is even greater. Pets At Home reported savings of 355km in steps per store, per annum.

Selco Builders Warehouse showed a saving of an extraordinary 3942km, saving £473k in efficiency.

Many retailers are surprised by the size of the efficiency savings we create. These figures show two things – firstly, that savings can be made quickly and easily, and secondly, that many man hours are currently being wasted.

When you put a monetary figure against man hours, the results are surprising. Our average savings alone of 185km equate to savings of £1.3m across a typical retail estate. That’s why when our proof of concept was rolled out to 7 UK Co-op stores, we iterated to a further 2,600 stores within twelve months. Once retailers are aware of how significant the savings can be, they want to move quickly.

What does the data prove?

Retail is facing a set of serious challenges at the moment. Today 30% of purchases are made online. Research by the Office of National Statistics shows an ever increasing eCommerce market – revenue more than doubled to £137 billion between 2012 and 2017 alone.

Source: ONS

The changing role of online vs. in store shopping has resulted in a more demanding customer base, more willing to abandon their cart than ever before. Coupled with the decline of the UK high street and high profile UK retailers facing administration, it’s a difficult market for employers and employees alike.

Recent work by Deloitte shows that 125 retailers faced administration in 2018, up 6% from 2017. Of these, 26 were larger retailers compared to just 17 in 2017.

Slow processes in store are perhaps a legacy feature of this. Developing faster, more efficient online eCommerce has taken focus away from in-store needs. By building more streamlined communication for front line colleagues, we hope to change this.

Nevertheless, retail is still haunted by old working practises and processes. The culture of ‘going to find someone’ has led to poor customer experience, as customers are expected to wait while help arrives. Many retailers don’t adopt technology to address this issue, which impacts customer experience.

Currently, retail is at a crossroads. Britain is a world leader, still attracting thousands of tourists each year to take advantage of our shopping. But the high street is in crisis, with thousands of shops facing uncertainty in the coming months. Online shopping is growing rapidly as a segment, doubling in revenue over the fast five years.

The growth of eCommerce is impacting behaviour in store. If customer support isn’t fast, people won’t wait. If retailers still have inefficient processes, they’re likely to be losing sales.

Something as simple as a tannoy system or till bell impacts negatively on customers. When customers hear a bell, it means a wait is coming. And customers aren’t prepared to wait. Largely because expectations for online and offline shopping have never been higher:

If a website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 53% of users lose interest.

Should offline shopping learn a little from the online world? If customers are more empowered, retailers could be doing more to boost the speed and efficiency of response times. This would also improve the move to ‘omnichannel’ experiences, where customers feel a more seamless divide between purchasing whether it’s online or not.

We need to remind ourselves that 70% of purchases still take place in store. Although online has shifted retail, the vast majority of transactions are still in person.

What could be done?

Now, more than ever, the emphasis is on customer experience.

By offering customers a unique, memorable experience, you can increase footfall and boost sales. London based We Built this City are pioneering the use of art and storefront design to improve retail outcomes. By inviting local artists to share their work and create real pieces live in person, We Built this City demonstrate a knack for the ‘experience’ of shopping.

Image: We Built this City

Some retailers are using discounts and giveaways to grow awareness, teaming this with a more interactive approach involving pop-up shops. Apatchy offer customers a free glass of prosecco and a photo-booth opportunity, but boozy approach isn’t realistic for most.

Perhaps the best way to address wasted man hours and retail inefficiency isn’t using gimmicks. It’s making sure your staff are happy and engaged.

Bored, unhappy staff turn customers off. They represent brands poorly and can impact customer experience with their attitude. If customer experience is everything in 2019, then retailers should be doing everything they can to improve team morale.

Upskilling your team

Giving your team the right equipment will enable them to perform tasks more quickly and effectively. If staff operations are slow, the shop operates slowly.

Empower your staff with a product that enables them to act quickly, and tasks will get done faster. Encourage efficiency with steps, and your colleagues working lives become easier. This results in a happier team and happier customers.

Instead of waiting for retail to wither, business owners should be reinvesting in their most important asset – staff.

Reinstall confidence in your team. Invest where it matters.

Get in touch with one of our experts today to find out how our solution can transform your results.

Discover how you can start a Proof of Concept Trial

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